The Three Absolute Rules of Résumé Employment Dates

Job applicants often complain that developing their résumé to match the hiring manager’s hot buttons is oftentimes much like trying to hit a moving target, which is often the case. Résumés and the hiring managers/human resource personnel that read them is always a subjective process. A person can develop their document one way in accordance to feedback from a hiring professional, only to have it rejected by a different human resource person who has a different formatting preference.

However, there are a few constants that are known to be true when developing a résumé and this blog will focus on a series of things to keep in mind when going into this creative process. Today’s post will focus on employment dates.

In this day and age, when so many people are actively switching jobs to gain more salary or achieve higher employment levels, working at a company more than five years can look like an eternity to some.

This can complicate employment dates and how a person lists them on their résumé. Here are three absolute rules to consider when putting together this document:

1) There is no law out there that requires you to list every single job you have ever worked on your résumé.
Please note: applications are totally different animals because you DO have to list all employers. However, résumés are what YOU choose to put out there. The good news is that you can be selective about which jobs you list, and if you have an employment gap (fired, laid off, quit, took a leave of absence, etc.) a way to skirt around this hole is to address this section of your résumé as “RELEVANT HISTORY” – which tells the employer, “These are the jobs that I think are relevant to the position for which I am applying.” If you are applying for a magazine sales job and have several jobs in that field, but also have a brief stint as a bartender, this particular position might not be relevant, and you’d probably want to leave it off.

2) Don’t ever lie about when you’ve worked somewhere.
If you had to put a bull’s-eye on the one thing that is the easiest for employers to check, this would be it. Be honest. If you aren’t, they’ll find out.

3) Always disclose the employment dates of jobs that you list on your résumé.
Always list the employment dates, no matter what. If you don’t, it looks like you are hiding something. It is interesting to note that I am seeing a common practice on résumés nowadays that only lists the years that people were at each position, instead of listing the start month and year and end month and year. (Remember, this is your résumé, not an application) The school of thought behind this approach is that this ‘cleans up’ the résumé so the hiring manager doesn’t have to ‘do the math’ to figure out exactly when you were there. The exception to this rule is if you are listing a position where you were only employed there less than a year. If this is the case, then list the month and year for start date and end date for each position.

Follow these three simple rules on employment dates, and this can help you stay on track by clearly and effectively communicating where you worked and when.